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Thread: Why is Obama still using Blackwater?

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default Why is Obama still using Blackwater?

    Two years ago on September 16, 2007, on a steamy hot Baghdad day with temperatures reaching 100 degrees, a heavily armed Blackwater convoy entered a congested intersection at Nisour Square in the Mansour district of the Iraqi capital. The once-upscale section of Baghdad was still lined with boutiques, cafes and art galleries dating back to better days. The ominous caravan consisted of four large armored vehicles with machine guns mounted on top.

    As the Blackwater convoy was entering the square that day, a young Iraqi medical student named Ahmed Hathem Al-Rubaie was driving his mother, Mahasin, in the family's white sedan. As fate would have it, they found themselves stuck near Nisour Square. The family were devout Muslims and were fasting in observance of the holy month of Ramadan.


    Ali Khalaf Salman, an Iraqi traffic cop on duty in Nisour Square that day, remembers vividly when the Blackwater convoy entered the intersection, spurring him and his colleagues to scramble to stop traffic. But as the Mambas entered the square, the convoy suddenly made a surprise U-turn and proceeded to drive the wrong way on a one-way street. As Khalaf watched, the convoy came to an abrupt halt. He says a large white man with a mustache, positioned atop the third vehicle in the Blackwater convoy, began to fire his weapon "randomly."

    Khalaf looked in the direction of the shots, on Yarmouk Road, and heard a woman screaming, "My son! My son!" The police officer sprinted toward the voice and found a middle-aged woman inside of a vehicle holding a 20-year-old man covered in blood, who had been shot in the forehead. "I tried to help the young man, but his mother was holding him so tight," Khalaf recalled. Another Iraqi policeman, Sarhan Thiab, also ran to the car. "We tried to help him,'' Thiab said. "I saw the left side of his head was destroyed and his mother was crying out: 'My son, my son. Help me, help me.'''

    Officer Khalaf recalled looking toward the Blackwater shooters. "I raised my left arm high in the air to try to signal to the convoy to stop the shooting." He says he thought the men would cease fire, given that he was a clearly identified police officer. The young man's body was still in the driver's seat of the automatic vehicle and, as Khalaf and Thiab stood there, it began to roll forward, perhaps as a result of the dead man's foot remaining on the accelerator.

    Blackwater guards later said they initially opened fire on the vehicle because it was speeding and would not stop, a claim hotly disputed by scores of witnesses. Aerial photos of the scene later showed that the car had not even entered the traffic circle when it was fired upon by Blackwater, while the New York Times reported, "The car in which the first people were killed did not begin to closely approach the Blackwater convoy until the Iraqi driver had been shot in the head and lost control of his vehicle," meaning Blackwater had already shot the man. "I tried to use hand signals to make the Blackwater people understand that the car was moving on its own and we were trying to stop it. We were trying to get the woman out but had to run for cover," Thiab said.

    "Don't shoot, please," Khalaf recalled yelling. But as he stood with his hand raised, Khalaf says a gunman from the fourth Blackwater vehicle opened fire on the mother gripping her son and shot her dead before Khalaf's and Thiabs' eyes. "I saw parts of the woman's head flying in front of me, blow up," Thiab said. "They immediately opened heavy fire at us." Within moments, so many shots had been fired at the car from "big machine guns" that Khalaf says it exploded, engulfing the bodies inside in flames, melting their flesh into one.

    "Each of their four vehicles opened heavy fire in all directions, they shot and killed everyone in cars facing them and people standing on the street," Thiab recalled. "When it was over we were looking around and about fifteen cars had been destroyed, the bodies of the killed were strewn on the pavements and road." When later asked by US investigators why he never fired at the Blackwater men, Khalaf told them, "I am not authorized to shoot, and my job is to look after the traffic."

    The victims were later identified as Ahmed Hathem Al-Rubaie and his mother, Mahasin. That attack on Ahmed and Mahasin's vehicle would be the beginning of a fifteen-minute shooting spree that would leave seventeen Iraqis dead and more than twenty wounded.

    One of the Blackwater "shooters" that day, Jeremy Ridgeway, later admitted in sworn testimony, that he had killed Mahasin by firing "multiple rounds" into her vehicle and that "there was no attempt to provide reasonable warning."

    After Ahmed and Mahasin's vehicle exploded, sustained gunfire rang out in Nisour Square as people fled for their lives. In addition to the Blackwater shooters in the four Mambas, witnesses say gunfire came from Blackwater's Little Bird helicopters. "The helicopters began shooting on the cars," officer Khalaf said. "The helicopters shot and killed the driver of a Volkswagen and wounded a passenger" who escaped by "rolling out of the car into the street," he said. Witnesses described a horrifying scene of indiscriminate shooting by the Blackwater guards. "It was a horror movie," said officer Khalaf. "It was catastrophic," said Zina Fadhil, a 21-year-old pharmacist who survived the attack. "So many innocent people were killed."

    Another Iraqi officer on the scene, Hussam Abdul Rahman, said that people who attempted to flee their vehicles were targeted. "Whoever stepped out of his car was shot at immediately," he said.

    "I saw women and children jump out of their cars and start to crawl on the road to escape being shot," said Iraqi lawyer Hassan Jabar Salman, who was shot four times in the back during the incident.

    "But still the firing kept coming and many of them were killed. I saw a boy of about 10 leaping in fear from a minibus--he was shot in the head. His mother was crying out for him. She jumped out after him, and she was killed."

    Salman says he was driving behind the Blackwater convoy when it stopped. Witnesses say some sort of explosion had gone off in the distance, too far away to have been perceived as a threat. He said Blackwater guards ordered him to turn his vehicle around and leave the scene. Shortly after, the shooting began. "Why had they opened fire?" he asked. "I do not know. No one--I repeat no one--had fired at them. The foreigners had asked us to go back, and I was going back in my car, so there was no reason for them to shoot." In all, he says, his car was hit twelve times, including the four bullets that pierced his back.

    Ridgeway, the Blackwater operative, admitted that he and the other Blackwater operatives "opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers on unarmed civilians." None of the victims that day "was an insurgent," he said, adding that "many were shot while inside of civilian vehicles that were attempting to flee." Ridgeway said one Iraqi was shot "while standing in the street with his hands up."

    Mohammed Abdul Razzaq and his 9-year-old-son, Ali, were in a vehicle immediately behind Ahmed and Mahasin, the first victims that day. "We were six persons in the car--me, my son, my sister and her three sons. The four children were in the back seat." He recalled that the Blackwater forces had "gestured stop, so we all stopped.... It's a secure area so we thought it will be the usual, we would stop for a bit as convoys pass. Shortly after that they opened heavy fire randomly at the cars with no exception." He said his vehicle "was hit by about thirty bullets, everything was damaged, the engine, the windshield the back windshield and the tires.

    "When the shooting started, I told everybody to get their heads down. I could hear the children screaming in fear. When the shooting stopped, I raised my head and heard my nephew shouting at me 'Ali is dead, Ali is dead.'

    "My son was sitting behind me," he said. "He was shot in the head and his brains were all over the back of the car." Razzaq
    remembered, "When I held him, his head was badly wounded, but his heart was still beating. I thought there was a chance and I rushed him to the hospital. The doctor told me that he was clinically dead and the chance of his survival was very slim. One hour later, Ali died."

    Razzaq, who survived the shooting, later returned to the scene and gathered the pieces of his son's skull and brains with his hands, wrapped them in cloth and took them to be buried in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. "I can still smell the blood, my son's blood, on my fingers," Razzaq said two weeks after his son died.

    In all, the melee reportedly lasted about fifteen minutes. In an indication of how out of control the situation quickly became, US officials report that "one or more" Blackwater guards called on their colleagues to stop shooting. The word cease-fire ''was supposedly called out several times,'' a senior official told the New York Times.

    "They had an on-site difference of opinion." At one point a Blackwater guard allegedly drew his gun on another. "It was a Mexican standoff," said one contractor. According to an Iraqi lawyer who was in the square that day, the Blackwater guard screamed at his colleague, "No! No! No!" The Iraqi lawyer himself was shot in the back as he tried to flee.

    As the heavy gunfire died down, witnesses say some sort of smoke bomb was set off in the square, perhaps to give cover for the Blackwater Mambas to leave, a common practice of security convoys. Iraqis also said the Blackwater forces fired shots as they withdrew from the square. "Even as they were withdrawing, they were shooting randomly to clear the traffic," said an Iraqi officer who witnessed the shootings in Nisour Square.

    Within hours, Blackwater would become a household name the world over, as word of the massacre spread. Blackwater claimed its forces had been "violently attacked" and "acted lawfully and appropriately" and "heroically defended American lives in a war zone." "The 'civilians' reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies." In less than twenty-four hours, the killings at Nisour Square would cause the worst diplomatic crisis to date between Washington and its own puppet regime in Baghdad. Though its forces had been at the center of some of the bloodiest moments of the war, Blackwater had largely existed in the shadows. Four years after Blackwater's first boots hit the ground in Iraq, it was yanked out of the darkness. Nisour Square would send Erik Prince down the fateful path to international infamy.

    Jeremy Ridgeway later pled guilty to one count of manslaughter. Five other Blackwater guards have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges for their role at Nisour Square that day. Blackwater forces "fired at innocent Iraqis not because they actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury and actually believed that they had no alternative to the use of deadly force, but rather...because of their hostility toward Iraqis and their grave indifference to the harm that their actions would cause," US prosecutors allege. "The defendants specifically intended to kill or seriously injure the Iraqi civilians that they fired upon at [Nisour] Square." Prosecutors also allege that "defendant Nicholas Slatten made statements that he wanted to kill as many Iraqis as he could as 'payback for 9/11,' and he repeatedly boasted about the number of Iraqis he had shot." Blackwater's owner, Erik Prince, has faced no consequences for the actions of his forces.

    Two years to the day after the Nisour Square massacre, Blackwater remains in Iraq, armed and dangerous. As The Nation has reported, the Obama administration recently extended the company's contract there indefinitely. Blackwater has big-money contracts in Afghanistan as well, working for the State Department, the Defense Department and the CIA. As in Iraq, Blackwater forces are alleged to have shot and killed innocent civilians there. We now know that Blackwater was hired as part of the secret CIA assassination program that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered concealed from Congress and that the company continues to work for the CIA as part of its drone bombing campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    A former Blackwater employee, known as John Doe #2, recently alleged in a sworn statement originally obtained by The Nation that Erik Prince, "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life." Prince, the former employee charged, "intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.... Prince's executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to 'lay Hajiis out on cardboard.' Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince's employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as 'ragheads' or 'hajiis.' "

    Another former Blackwater employee, an ex-US Marine, charged in a sworn statement that "Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq." He states that he personally witnessed weapons being "pulled out" from dog food bags. Doe #2 alleges that "Prince and his employees arranged for the weapons to be polywrapped and smuggled into Iraq on Mr. Prince's private planes, which operated under the name Presidential Airlines," adding that Prince "generated substantial revenues from participating in the illegal arms trade."

    Meanwhile, a new lawsuit has been filed against Prince by four Iraqis who claim they were shot by Blackwater operatives a week before Nisour Square on September 9, 2007. According to Susan Burke, the lawyer for the Iraqis who works with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Prince runs the operations of his "heavily armed private army" in Iraq and elsewhere from a twenty-four-hour command center known as the "war room." Burke also alleges that in Iraq "Prince's private army of men went 'night hunting' on more than one occasion. This 'night hunting' entailed Mr. Prince's men, armed with night goggles and riding in Mr. Prince's wholly-owned helicopters after 10 pm over the streets of Baghdad, killing at random."

    On the second anniversary of the single worst massacre of Iraqi civilians committed by a private force since the US invasion, President Obama should be forced to explain to the American people and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan why he continues to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to this company and why he permits them to remain on the ground, representing the United States in these countries. At a recent hearing of the bipartisan Wartime Contracting Commission, commissioner Linda Gustitus asserted that in not canceling Blackwater's contracts after Nisour Square, the State Department "helped to send a message to other contractors that you can do a lot and not have your contract terminated."

    Why Is Obama Still Using Blackwater?
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


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  2. #2
    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    US Still Paying Blackwater Millions

    Just days before two former Blackwater employees alleged in sworn statements filed in federal court that the company's owner, Erik Prince, "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," the Obama administration extended a contract with Blackwater for more than $20 million for "security services" in Iraq, according to federal contract data obtained by The Nation. The State Department contract is scheduled to run through September 3. In May, the State Department announced it was not renewing Blackwater's Iraq contract, and the Iraqi government has refused to issue the company an operating license.

    "They are still there, but we are transitioning them out," a State Department official told The Nation. According to the State Department, the $20 million represents an increase on an aviation contract that predates the Obama administration.

    Despite its scandal-plagued track record, Blackwater (which has rebranded itself as Xe) continues to have a presence in Iraq, trains Afghan forces on US contracts and provides government-funded training for military and law enforcement inside the United States. The company is also actively bidding on other government contracts, including in Afghanistan, where the number of private contractors is swelling. According to federal contracting records reviewed by The Nation, since President Barack Obama took office in January the State Department has contracted with Blackwater for more than $174 million in "security services" alone in Iraq and Afghanistan and tens of millions more in "aviation services." Much of this money stems from existing contracts from the Bush era that have been continued by the Obama administration. While Obama certainly inherited a mess when it came to Blackwater's entrenchment in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has continued the widespread use of armed private contractors in both countries. Blackwater's role may be slowly shrinking, but its work is continuing through companies such as DynCorp and Triple Canopy.

    "These contracts with Blackwater need to stop," says Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat and a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. "There's already enough evidence of gross misconduct and serious additional allegations against the company and its owner to negate any possibility that this company should have a presence in Iraq, Afghanistan or any conflict zone--or any contract with the US government."

    On July 24 the Army signed an $8.9 million contract with Blackwater's aviation wing, Presidential Airways, for aviation services at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Bagram, home to a massive--and expanding--US-run prison, has been the subject of intense criticism from the ACLU and human rights groups for holdings hundreds of prisoners without charges and denying them habeas corpus and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

    The Blackwater aviation contract for Afghanistan is described as "Air Charter for Things" and "Nonscheduled Chartered Passenger Air Transportation." The military signed an additional $1.4 million contract that day for "Nonscheduled" passenger transportation in Afghanistan. These payments are part of aviation contracts dating back to the Bush era, and continued under Obama, that have brought Blackwater tens of millions of dollars in Afghanistan since January. In May, Blackwater operatives on contract with the Department of Defense allegedly killed an unarmed Afghan civilian and wounded two others. Moreover, Presidential Airways is being sued by the families of US soldiers killed in a suspicious crash in Afghanistan in November 2004.

    The sworn affidavits from the former Blackwater employees, first reported by The Nation on August 3, have sparked renewed calls on Capitol Hill for the Obama administration to cancel all business with Blackwater. "I believe that the behavior of Xe, its leadership, and many of its employees, puts our government and military personnel, as well as our military and diplomatic objectives, at serious risk," Schakowsky wrote in an August 6 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "Given this company's history of abuse and in light of recent allegations, I urge you not to award further contracts to Xe and its affiliates and to review all existing contracts with this company." Schakowsky sent a similar letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

    Meanwhile, VoteVets.org, a leading veterans' organization, has called on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to investigate the allegations contained in the sworn declarations submitted in the Eastern District of Virginia on August 3. VoteVets.org, which has more than 100,000 members, also appealed to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to "immediately hold hearings, and make recommendations on a new legal structure" to hold private military contractors accountable for alleged crimes.

    "Given the charges made against Xe and Erik Prince in these sworn statements, which include smuggling and use of illegal arms inside of Iraq, as well as the encouraged murder of innocent Iraqis, it is essential that these loopholes be closed, retroactively, so that Xe, Prince, and his employees cannot escape proper prosecution in the United States now or in the future," wrote the group's chair Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran, in a letter to Senator John Kerry and other lawmakers. "It is absolutely crucial that we show Iraqis and the rest of the world that no matter who you are or how big your company is, you will be held accountable for your conduct--especially when in a war zone. Failure to do so only emboldens our enemy, and gives them yet another tool to recruit more insurgents and terrorists that target our men and women in harm's way."

    For its part, Blackwater/Xe issued a statement responding to the sworn statements of two of its former employees. The company called the allegations "unsubstantiated and offensive assertions." It said the lawyers representing alleged Iraqi victims of Blackwater "have chosen to slander Mr. Prince rather than raise legal arguments or actual facts that will be considered by a court of law. We are happy to engage them there."

    What Blackwater/Xe's statement did not flatly say is that the allegations are untrue. "I would have expected a crisp denial," says military law expert Scott Horton, who has followed this case closely. "The statement had the look of a denial to it, without actually refuting the specific allegations. I can understand why from the perspective of a corporate public affairs officer--just repeating the allegations would be harmful and would add to their credibility."

    Blackwater also claims that the accusations "hold no water" because, even though the two former employees said that they had already provided similar information to federal prosecutors, no further Blackwater operatives or officials have been indicted. The company claims that according to the US attorney, the indictment of five Blackwater employees for the September 2007 Nisour Square shootings is "very narrow in its allegation" and does not charge "the entire Blackwater organization in Baghdad."

    But, as Blackwater certainly knows, there are multiple prosecutors looking into its activities on a wide range of issues, and more than one grand jury can be seated at any given time. Simply because indictments were not announced regarding other actions when the Nisour Square charges were brought by the Justice Department does not mean Prince, Blackwater and its management are in the clear.

    "We know that the federal criminal investigation is still ongoing, so this prosecutor's statement was not really anything definitive," says Horton. "Second, the presumption in US law is that, with fairly rare exceptions, crimes are committed by natural persons, not by legal entities like corporations. A corporation might be fined, for instance, but if it's deeply entangled in criminal dealings, it's the officers who would be prosecuted. Among other things, of course, it's impossible to put a corporation in the slammer. So saying that Blackwater wasn't charged with any crime really doesn't mean much."

    Blackwater says it will formally respond to the allegations against Prince and Blackwater in a legal motion on August 17 in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Prince and the company are being sued for war crimes and other alleged crimes by Susan Burke and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

    On August 5, Blackwater's lawyers filed a motion with the court reiterating their request for a gag order to be placed on the plaintiffs and their lawyers. That motion largely consisted of quotes from two recent Nation magazine articles covering the case, including one about the allegations against Prince. Despite the fact that the affidavits of "John Doe #1" and "John Doe #2" were public, Blackwater accused the lawyers of "providing this information" to the media. Blackwater's lawyers charged that the plaintiffs' attorneys comments to The Nation were intended "to fuel this one-sided media coverage and to taint the jury pool against [Erik Prince and Blackwater]," adding that The Nation articles and the "coordinated media campaign" of the lawyers "demonstrate a clear need for an Order restraining extrajudicial commentary by the parties and their counsel." On August 7, Judge T.S. Ellis III, a Reagan appointee, denied Blackwater's motion.

    US Still Paying Blackwater Millions
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


    All of God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.


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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Sometimes I wonder if we should just create a sticky thread for Blackwater so we can shove all the articles about their depravity in one thread... There's a new article/revelation every week it seems.

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Not a bad idea. It may be as long as the million posts thread before this debacle is through.
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


    All of God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.


    If I wanted the government in my womb I'd fuck a Senator

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    Elite Member Chilly Willy's Avatar
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    Good question.
    Hello mother fucker! when you ask a question read also the answer instead of asking another question on an answer who already contain the answer of your next question!
    -Bugdoll-



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    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    I thought the Iraqi government kicked them out of the country. What an embarassment for our country.
    If i hear one more personal attack, i will type while drunk, then you can cry! - Bugdoll
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    (Replying to MontanaMama) This is some of the smartest shit I ever read

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    Elite Member Just Kill Me's Avatar
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    Erik Prince is a delusional freak.
    KILLING ME WON'T BRING BACK YOUR GOD DAMNED HONEY!!!!!!!!!!

    Come on, let's have lots of drinks.

    Fuck you all, I'm going viral.

  8. #8
    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    [youtube]4gvju09PFII[/youtube]

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